It’s Time For Apple To Kill iTunes

It’s Time For Apple To Kill iTunes

Last night, I helped my son set up his new iPhone. The usual process I follow is to back a device up using iTunes and then restore to the new device. But yesterday, for some reason iTunes refused to detect my son’s old iPhone. While there was an easy workaround, it occurred to me that iTunes is no longer a required piece of software even if you live completely in Apple’s walled garden.

Almost 20 years ago, Apple acquired an application called SoundJam MP which they eventually repurposed and renamed to become iTunes.

Back then, the focus was purely on managing your music library and allowing you to sync to the iPod.

Flash forward a decade or so, and Apple was into apps, movies, TV shows, ring-tones, podcasts and music. And iTunes expanded to handle all those different media types as well as managing iPhones. As a result, it’s become something of a franken-app that tries to do many things and has a reputation for being a crappy app.

Why iTunes Isn’t Needed

Last night, I had my son’s old iPhone sitting next to a newer phone that had been factory reset. When a new iPhone (or one that has been factory reset) is near an old iPhone, the new iPhone offers the option to restore from the old one. So, the need for iTunes for setting up a new device is now gone.

Apple removed app management from iTunes last year so the need for iTunes to manage any iOS device is gone.

Music management has changed substantially over the last few years. Now that music is largely streamed through the likes of Apple Music and Spotify, and you can buy music directly on devices, the need for iTunes is further negated.

The same goes for movies and TV shows which are either streamed or directly purchased on devices.

Backups can be handled using iCloud although you’ll need to spring for some extra storage given Apple’s meagre 5GB allocation. But $4.95 per month buys you 200GB which, through Family Sharing, can be used by several family members.

In other words, other than local media management, most of what iTunes does has been offloaded.

What Will iTunes Be Replaced With?

The biggest hint that Apple is planning to kill iTunes comes from iOS. Apple introduced the Movies app last year. I can see them doing the same with macOS and Windows. Similarly, I can see them doing the same with music.

Specific apps for video and audio media will simplify management of the media you have stored. iTunes has become increasingly cluttered and hard to use. Splitting it into specific apps makes sense and will simplify things for users. Or you can even ditch iTunes already and use other software for managing your local media – assuming DRM isn’t an issue.

iOS device management has all but been removed from iTunes. If you have an iOS device there’s almost no reason to use iTunes unless you have non Apple Store content to sync.

Podcasts can be handled either directly on end-point devices or with specific PC software.

The reality is that iTunes has grown and the user experience has deteriorated to the point where it’s a source of much frustration. Windows users, in particular, seem to have more reliability issues with iTunes and I’m sure they’d be happy to see the back of it.

With iOS now becoming almost completely independent of iTunes, the only reasons for using it are to deal tho legacy media. Apple could handle that either by licensing their FairPlay DRM to a third party or creating new apps for each type of media.

What do you think? Is it times for Apple to send iTunes to the software graveyard?


  • How gullible are we dealing the totalitarian company Apple Inc. Why use their music rental company when there are so many places selling music you can own. Or even free.

    Some Apple itunes users wake up and find their some all or all of their itunes are missing.

    Frankly you get what you get when you deal with the world’s most disgraceful company.

    Use YouTube – its free, and they give the artist a more fair royalty.

      • This I would like. Having to install iTunes on various computers around the country at work is annoying and always seems to invite people to attempt to shuffle their music around between devices…

        • And, for IT admins, it would make life easier.

          If I user presents with a borked iPhone, they can take it to tech support who could factory reset it, set it up using an MDM tool and then hand it to the user who could put their photos, apps and media back from their iCloud (or other) backup.

  • Agree that iTunes is a dog (which is insulting to dogs) although it does seem to perform better than it did about a year ago.

    However I still need some way to do local backups of my iPad Pro, which has 256GB of storage.

    iTunes is currently the only way to do a full local back up and restore of an iPad on a desktop computer. The third party solutions still require an iTunes installation.

    Ideally Apple would allow third parties to make their own back up and restore solutions. If only I could back up to my Lighting thumb drive…

    I do not use iCloud. It is overpriced and dysfunctional. It would be preferable for me to backup to OneDrive, as I already have 1TB storage with my Office 365 subscription.

    However backing up 256GB over wifi is not really practical in Australia.

  • What about older Ipod’s, can the content on those be managed by other software. I still use and old 32gb classic for exercising with as it still works fine, is smaller and lighter to carry than my massive smartphone.

    • In my article, I noted that a music only app, for man ageing music libraries would be a good idea. Apple could license the ability to sync older iPods (third party tools let you access content on older iPods and movie data on and off them) or just make it a function of the music-only application.

  • Not until they integrate smart playlists into their music app. That’s what (IMHO) made iTunes the killer music app years ago and it still makes such a difference to how I listen to my music. Granted, many people just use a pre-defined playlist but I love how I can slice and dice my music (and music I download from Apple) with them.

  • So instead of one application that covers music, movies, books, podcasts, device management, backups, etc, you want users to have to download 6 separate applications most of which, by necessity, will be sharing a chunk of code and functionality?

    • Actually – I doubt people will want all six. There are lots of people that use 0 apps with iOS devices. As it stands, there are lots of alternatives for managing all the different types of media and many are better than iTunes. The only thing iTunes is really needed for is restoring a stuffed up iOS device.

  • I still use iTunes for media and backup management. Granted, I don’t like it as much as the next person, but does encrypted restores nicely and doesn’t cost anything for cloud storage.

    Pros and cons there; leveraging off iCloud means your backups are easier but you pay for that privilege.

    I also like managing my camera roll, regularly copying pictures to my NAS and retaining those pictures on the device; something I still need a PC for.

  • With Telstra who gave me a free subscription to Apple Music which I don’t use and after a weird glitch with my Apple ID or iTunes (happened after restoring to a new phone) all of my playlists were lost. I have left the Apple ecosystem completely and like the Spotify playlists that the app presents me. One other factor was that I purchased Alexas around the house and Spotify works nicely with them. The other thing was how terrible the app has been (Win 10 OS). Constantly crashing and constantly asking for my password – buggy as hell. It is a dog.

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